The Dangers of Sun Damage

Summertime is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy everything the season has to offer, including the warm sun. Soaking up some vitamin D can be great for your health, but spending long amounts of time in the sun day after day can be damaging and sometimes very harmful.

Other than the obvious sunburn or tan, how else is the sun affecting your skin? What are the dangers of sun exposure? Common indicators of sun damage are:

  • Precancerous and cancerous skin lesions
  • Benign tumors
  • Deterioration of the elastic and collagen tissue
  • Fine and deep wrinkles
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin
  • Freckles
  • Discolored areas of the skin
  • Dilation of small blood vessels under the skin

Unfortunately, many of these signs can be red flags for something far worse: skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of most common forms of cancer. Knowing how to detect these cancers can help save your life. Some common cancers include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma – Basal cell carcinoma appears as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy looking bump. It can also look like a flat pink, red or brown scar-like lesion.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – Squamous cell carcinoma appears as a firm, red nodule or a rough, scaly, flat lesion that can bleed or crust over.
  • Melanoma – Melanoma appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It sometimes will mimic a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance or feel.

What are the risk factors?

Some people are more susceptible to skin cancers or sun damage, depending on a few factors. Some factors that can increase the risk for skin cancers are:

  • Fair skin
  • History of sunburns
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • High altitude climates
  • Moles
  • Precancerous skin lesions
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Personal history of skin cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exposure to radiation

How can I help prevent sun damage?

Most sun damage and potential skin cancers are actually quite preventable. Be sure to perform head-to-toe tests, like the ABCDE method. Look for (A) asymmetry, (B) border irregularities, (C) color changes, (D) large diameter, and (E) evolution of the mark. To help prevent harmful effects of sun exposure, try these tips:

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day
  • Use sunscreen whenever exposed to the sun, not just in the summer
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Be aware of medications like certain antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers that can make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays
  • Scan your body often and report questionable marks to your doctor

For more information on sun damage and skin cancers, call the cancer specialists at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center at (800) 849-0203 today.

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